Accidents: Conquest pilot lost control

 - July 15, 2008, 9:18 AM

CESSNA 441 CONQUEST II, ARKANSAS CITY, KAN., JAN. 30, 2002–The pilot and his wife died when, according to early reports, he lost control of their Conquest after the autopilot failed in IMC. The pilot radioed ATC and requested a no-gyro vector to visual conditions. Shortly after the request, the turboprop descended rapidly–losing some 27,000 ft in approximately 14 min–until radar coverage and communications were lost. The wreckage was found in an icy field near Winfield, Kan. some 30 to 40 miles southwest of Wichita.

The 60-year-old pilot and his 36-year-old wife were flying to Colorado for a medical conference. Preliminary estimates of his experience, gleaned from his most recent medical, pointed to 1,500 hr total time. They departed Springdale Municipal (ASG) shortly after 1300 and climbed to their cruise altitude of FL 280. Weather reports near the crash site included 4 mi visibility in freezing rain and mist, broken layers of cloud at 1,000 ft and an overcast sky at 1,300 ft, with a surface temperature of 1 deg C.

A Northwest DC-9 captain was quoted as hearing the couple’s struggle to stay in control. The captain heard the pilot telling Kansas City he had an autopilot problem, although it wasn’t clear what the specific trouble was. The Conquest pilot asked for a climb to FL 290 but then changed his mind and told controllers he wanted to fly under the weather. Although they did not make any mention of the Conquest’s accruing ice, investigators will research any part icing might have played in the accident.

The pilot broadcast a few more times in the final moments of the flight. Reportedly pilots on the frequency heard him talking to his wife as she flew and yelling for her to stop climbing. At one point controllers asked the DC-9 captain to call the Conquest as they were having difficulty communicating. They heard no response. The Northwest crew then heard a last transmission, “Well, we’re going to spin.” At this preliminary stage, investigators have yet to receive the ATC tapes but told AIN they are interested in listening to the transmissions for any additional information they provide.